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Ellis Howarth was born in Chorley and baptised in St. George`s Church in the town on the 29th January 1897 by his parents Richard and Margaret Ann Howarth (nee Jolly). Richard and Margaret Ann married in St. James` Church in Chorley on the 3rd August 1889 and they had a further seven surviving children, the others being;

  • Richard (1890)
  • Elizabeth (1891)
  • Margaret (1894)
  • Harold (1900)
  • Mary Alice (1903)
  • William (1907)
  • Clara (1909)

Ellis lived with his family at 118 Clifford Street in Chorley in 1901, his father working as a railway shunter and his mother as a cotton weaver. By 1911 they had moved to 5 Albion Street in Chorley, a home where they would remain for a number of years. Ellis` father was now a labourer on the railways, his brother Richard, sisters Elizabeth and Margaret were all cotton workers as was Ellis, his occupation noted as a cotton creeler.

Ellis Howarth. Photo courtesy of Adam Cree

Ellis attested at Chorley on the 26th August 1914, he was still only 17 years old although he stated his age as 18 years and 254 days. His medical inspection revealed he was only a small chap standing at 5`2” tall and he weighed in at 88lbs. He had a chest measurement of 32” and he had blue eyes and black hair. He confirmed that he had no previous military experience and that his home address was 5 Albion Street, Chorley. Ellis was issued with the service number 3130 and then posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

On the 10th September 1915 Ellis sailed for the Dardanelles to join the 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, coming under the Command of 38th Brigade in 13th (Western) Division.  His papers then show that on the 10th December 1915 he reported sick suffering from dysentery and that by the 20th January 1916 he had been admitted to hospital in Malta still suffering from the same complaint. A month later he was shipped back to England, sailing from Malta on the 20th February 1916 and after arriving back in the UK on the 28th February he was then admitted to the 3rd Western General Hospital in Newport, Monmouthshire for treatment. Ellis remained in hospital in Newport until the 3rd May 1916 and was then transferred to Queen Mary`s Military Hospital in Whalley which for him, was much nearer to his home in Chorley.  He remained at Whalley until finally being cleared of any infection and was then sent to what his papers note as the Dysentry Depot which was a convalescent hospital at Barton-on-Sea in Hampshire. On the 22nd August 1916 he was granted one week`s furlough and then on the 1st September 1916 he reported back for duty with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion LNL.

Ellis was then posted to the 25th Infantry Brigade Depot in France, sailing from Folkestone on the 3rd November 1916. The following day he was posted to the 1st Battalion LNL, joining them in the field on the 6th November 1916, the 1st Battalion coming under the Command of 2nd Brigade in 1st Division. Another spell away from the front line followed in February 1917 when Ellis was suffering from myalgia (27/2/17 – 14/3/17).  On the 11th June 1917 the Battalion moved with the 2nd Brigade to the small town of Terdeghem which was two and a half miles south-west of Cassel. Five days later Ellis was found guilty of being drunk in camp and was given 14 days Field Punishment No. 1. On the 20th June the 1st Division including the 1st Battalion LNL continued on to their real destination which was the coast. Moving on foot and also by train the Battalion found itself at Coxyde-les-Bains by the evening of the 23rd June, this was a village some five miles to the west of the line in the Nieuport sector. It was here that the 1st Division formed with the 32nd the XV. Corps of General Rawlinson`s Fourth Army, the XV. Corps then began the process of relieving the French Marines who had been holding this portion of the line since very early in the war.

The Battalion History;

“The appearance of British troops on the coast seems to have alarmed the enemy and caused him to launch a counter-offensive.

The positions which we had taken from the French in this area, included a narrow strip of polder and dune, some two miles in length and from 600 – 1200 yards in depth, lying on the right bank of the canalized Yser between Plasschendaele Canal, south of Lombartzyde, and the coast. Midway between the Plasschedaele Canal and the sea those positions were divided into two parts by the dyke known as the Geleide Creek, which flows into the Yser south-west of Lombartzyde. If the enemy could succeed in driving us back across the canal and river on the whole of this front he would render the defence of the sector much easier for him”

The 2nd Division covered some 1,400 yards of frontage from the sea, near the small town of Nieuport, to Lombartzyde and from there the 32nd Division carried on the line. In the left sector the three brigades of the 1st Division were distributed in depth, the one in front having two battalions holding the line to the east of Nieuport, and the two other battalions in support behind the River Yser. The supporting Brigade occupied huts between Dunkirk and Coxyde-les-Bains, and the reserve Brigade was in billets to the west of Coxyde-les-Bains. On the night of 4th July the 1st Battalion LNL became left support battalion occupying houses and cellars in Nieuport-les-Bains, the 2nd King`s Royal Rifles taking its place in the front line, which lay among the sand hills where the soil was too light to allow the digging of trenches and the only protection they had was by way of earthworks, which were both conspicuous and vulnerable.

Extract from the Battalion War History;

10th July 1917 – About 6 a.m. on the 10th the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment of the front system – the river, Nieuport-les-Bains, and the back areas, Coxyde and Coxyde-les-Bains. This increased during the day and about 7.25 p.m. the enemy successfully attacked, taking our trenches to the east bank of the river. The two battalions in the front line were practically annihilated. An advance party, totalling four Officers and 36 other ranks, which went up to the left battalion in the early morning of the 10th, was present during the attack, and of these only two men returned.

The 1st Battalion occupied the trenches on the west bank of the Yser as the front line, `A` and `B` Companies being in front and `C` and `D` in support. After the attack the bombardment slackened slightly but it was not until five the following morning that it really ceased. About eight o`clock in the evening the enemy`s aeroplanes dropped bombs on Rinck Camp, which was occupied by details of the Battalion, and one man was killed and an Officer and 6 other ranks were wounded, the Officer and one of the men being attached. Total casualties for the day were four Officers and 34 other ranks missing, three Officers and 28 other ranks wounded and two men killed”.

Sadly, the name of Private Ellis Howarth was one of those posted on the missing list. His service papers then confirm that information had come to light at a later date when it was reported that his name had appeared on an official German list of dead. The body of 3130 Private E. Ellis had been found and identified by his ID Disc, his disc had been returned by the Inspection Corps and it was also noted that he had been buried (burial place unknown). This information was formally accepted as proof of Ellis`s death and for official purposes it was confirmed that he had died on or since 10th July 1917. His Identity Disc was later returned to his family in Chorley and was the only personal item recovered.

After the war his mother took receipt of the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which her son was entitled and she would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Ellis’ details were recorded by Susannah Knight in the Chorley Memorial Books now held in Astley Hall, Chorley.

Chorley Memorial Book (CMB/I/112b)

As Ellis has no official burial place, his name was later inscribed on the Nieuport Memorial along with the names of eleven other 1st Battalion LNL soldiers;

Photo taken April 1917

Below a photograph of the panel containing the names of the 1st Battalion LNL soldiers;

Lieutenant Gordon Arthur Gifford – attached 2/T.M.B., born in London
Lieutenant Sanford William Shippard, Lacock, Wiltshire
26501 Corporal William Robertson Storey born in Evenwood, Durham, enlisted Bishop Auckland
15062 Lance Corporal Walter Hazeldine born and enlisted in Bolton
34188 Private Robert Henry Ellis, Bordesley Green, Birmingham
3130 Private Ellis Howarth, Chorley
17825 Private William Lythgoe, born Wigan, enlisted at Bolton
22553 Private Robert Partington born in Bolton
26714 Private Michael Purcell, Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny
29857 Private Frank Skerritt born Manchester
23622 Private Thomas Slater born Bamber Bridge
34215 Private John Isaac Thomas born in St. Florence, Pembroke, Wales, enlisted Gloucestershire

Authors Note: Although there are 12 names recorded, only 11 of those are shown on the official CWGC record for the Nieuport Memorial – the remains of the last named soldier, 34215 Private John Isaac Thomas were eventually found along with the remains of another five soldiers who were believed to have perished on 10th July 1917 at Nieuport. John Isaac Thomas` remains were identified by his clothing and his remains and those of the five other unidentified soldiers were placed together in three coffins and reinterred in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery.

Janet Davis
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2 Responses to 3130 PTE. E. HOWARTH. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Bill Martindale says:

    I was doing some research for the great niece of Lance Corporal Walter Hazeldine, also killed on 10 July 1917 as detailed above. The 1st LNLR were due to replace the Kings Royal Rifle Corps in the front line and the group of 4 Officers and 36 O.R. were presumably the first batch who were then separated from the rest of the Battalion when the German shelling destroyed the bridges behind them. The Lancs lads are little mentioned in the official reports but were presumably mixed in with the KRRC soldiers. Of the 1 Officer and 11 O.R. killed that day only two have graves: Thomas and Sharrocks. Sharrock’s burial was concentrated and the original burial map reference was near the river (how do I post a picture)and a spot where possibly the KRRC had a last stand. Two of the O.R. swam back across the river to their unit. The other 3 Officers and 22 O.R presumably were among the 1200 prisoners the Germans took.

    • Rob says:

      Hi – That’s really interesting information.
      I’d be interested to see the map of the burial location. John Isaac Thomas was my Gt Grand Father and it would be nice to see near where he fell. Did you manage to post it? Is it available online?

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